Tuesday, September 22, 2015

9-1-2015 Soldier Stone Memorial

In the remote and lonely high-country of Colorado, an amazing tribute stands at an elevation of 11,460 feet to soldiers of all nationalities who fought in the Vietnam conflict, through it's three long decades. It's creation has an equally amazing story, though the creator of the memorial wanted it's existence kept quiet and low key, and many vets of the war support that wish. We'll tell a short version of how it came about, and although you can find it's location on the internet (and we're finding this to be to the dismay of many, as we research the history of it), we'll respect it's quietude and leave out any location references and internet links. At this point, Kath would like to dedicate this blog: 

"To all the veterans of New England Healing Sports (NEHSA) that I have had the honor to have been associated with. I thank each and every one of them for their service to our country. If anyone who sees this who would like to forward it to any veteran, NEHSA affiliated or not, please feel free to. There are many out there that I know would love to see this."

The memorial was inspired and designed by a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel from Texas named Stuart Allen Beckley. He spent 11 years in Vietnam, and he wanted to erect a tribute from American soldiers to all the foreign soldiers who fought there in those 30 years of war. He contacted a Colorado stone cutter in 1990 and the work on the monument itself was started. With that underway, Col. Beckley started scouting locations and four years later in 1994, finally found his high altitude spot in a Colorado national forest. Unfortunately, at the same time, he was diagnosed with cancer. But in an ironic twist, it was that same cancer that persuaded the district forest supervisor to give Col. Beckley's project the green light. The project was completed in July of 1995 but unfortunately Col. Beckley, who died on November 5, 1995, was too ill to make the trip to view his amazing tribute.

It consists of a central pillar surrounded by a triangular stone wall. Scattered around that point are 36 "quotestones", with sayings representing the nationalities of those who fought there. We managed to photograph 25 of them, not knowing how many there actually were. We've decided that this will need to be an annual pilgrimage for us whenever we are in Westcliffe, and will find and post the rest of the stones next year when we return.

It was one of the most moving experiences either of us has ever had. I don't think we had more that 5 minutes conversation in the hour or so we were there. While photographing the stones, I had to stop twice to get my composure back in check, as I couldn't see through the viewfinder anymore. I thought of the many Vietnam vets I have met and known over the years, 2 of which are good friends. One of them is deceased, and was haunted by the demons of his experience in Vietnam as long as I knew him. Unlike my parents generation who fought in WW-II, 'Nam vets often talk freely about their experiences, and you don't have to hear very many of those stories to know that this war was different. It was about sheer terror, beyond fear and courage, where it was impossible to separate friend from foe, where the countryside you fought in was as dangerous as the enemy you fought, and it was America's first modern-day experience with guerrilla warfare, from what I have read and heard. With that in mind, you can't help but be in awe of Col. Beckley's accomplishment.

Our thanks to our good friends Judy and Bob from Denver and our neighbors in Westcliffe, who told us of this place. We had planned to make the trip together, but our schedules never jived this summer to make it happen. It will next year. 

There are captions under most of the pictures, and we tried to be as accurate as we could in finding translations of the quotestones. Please feel free to comment with corrections or stories of your own. We found that the comment sections of the sites we researched on were full of  fascinating recollections from vets, so hopefully we'll find some here as well over time.

View from the parking area-you can see part of the memorial as a square gray block, in the upper center above a group of  small trees. It's about a 1/4 mile walk through the grassland from this parking area.

The monument has numerous tributes left behind by individuals, which can be seen with a closer look at the pics above and the close-ups below.

Smiley-I wish that you were still here and could have stumbled onto this blogpost, and found this picture. Granted it's about a "Huey" and not a "Hook", but I thought of you nonetheless. Our last phone call some 20 years ago has haunted me ever since, and I'll forever regret not getting in the car and driving to Hampton to be there for you. I hope you have finally found peace in your passing.

The Quotestones

French: "They were from Ouaga, Conakry, and Dakar, Nigeria, Mali and the Ivory Coast. They were the soldiers of France of yesteryear. Who can close his door on one of their children?"

German: "No high mass will they be chanting,
And no kaddish will they say,
Nothing will be said or chanted
On my own memorial day."


French: "French dying
So that honor at least may be served".

English/German: "Left behind in the Tonkin Delta.
Died for France?
Yes, died for France."

Arabic: "We come from the Sultan,
May God forgive our sins."

French: (No translation yet)


German: "My regiment, my home
My mother I have never known
My father fell early on in the field
I am alone in the world."


Chinese: "Sacrifice the plum tree
For the peach tree."

Operation Brotherhood was a Filipino humanitarian mission to South Vietnam that started in 1953 and continued through the 1960's.

Laos: "The gnat lives as best it can
On what nature provides,
But how can a great white elephant
Be interested in a little bamboo shoot
like me?"

Vietnamese: "When dreams and wishes fail and don't come true,
They turn to stones and just sit there, stock-still,
They weigh so heavy on my brain, my heart-
I want to shrug them off but often I can't."
From the Vietnamese poem "Flowers From Hell."

Vietnamese: "Although we have at times been strong, 
At times been weak, 
We have at no time lacked heroes."

Hmong: "Sho, hey! You have left for good.
You have come to the mountain in the burning sky,
The mountain wide open to the winds where the
Wild wind howls."

Arabic; "It is written."

Nepali: "It's a bullet, a bullet
Hear it ricochet by your ear
It's beckoning war.

Arabic: "Every soul will know the taste of Death".

Vietnamese: "Who could say that Heaven is Blind"
"Who says God has no eyes?"

Urdu/Hindi: To all who served.

Moroccan: (No translation yet)

Possibly means "Bahnar in front the snake behind the tiger".


Hmong: "Anguished but not angry,
I arrive in this country, without brothers or sisters,
Like a bewildered, lost dog."

 Three of the stones and the the randomness of the quotestones layout.

Saying Goodbye